"I am relieved that you are alright."

Lavitz smiled at his king. "You doubted that I would come back?"

"I was worried! You usually contact me on a regular basis, so when I did not receive a letter, coupled with reports that your unit had been wiped out...I feared the worst. But, I remembered our promise, and that soothed me. A little."

Lavitz laughed and placed a large hand on his sovereign's shoulder. "I'm surprised that you remembered that. It was so long ago!"

"I remember everything you said, Lavitz. Bad case of hero-worship when I was younger."

Lavtiz grinned again, and pulled a chair over so he could sit next to the King. "But I returned."

"Yes, you returned. With two friends in tow, no less."

"Are you making fun of me?"

"No. It just marvels me at how easily you can get people to follow with you, trust you...I wish my job were that easy."

"Minor nobles causing trouble?" Lavitz asked softly, voice serious.

"They do not think I am handling the war right. I am doing my best! With the Dragon , rumors of a Giganto, and the sheer scale of everything...it is difficult."

Lavitz watched as a fleeting expression of aggravation, annoyance and uselessness crossed his King's face. Wishing to comfort, he put a hand on the King's shoulder, and received a tiny smile for his effort.

"Lavitz, I won't be able to convince you to stay here as a Royal Guard, will I? Just like Dart can't convince Shana to stay here."

"I'm more use in the field; you know that."

A wry smile touched Albert's lips. "Then I have a mission for you. Go to Hoax. Help defend it in case of a Sandorian attack. Just...try to survive."

"You doubt my ability?"

"No. I just feel nervous about sending you out into the field. I have the strange feeling that when we see each other next, it will not be a happy occasion."

Lavitz shook his head. "You're just letting the pessimism and the workload get to your head. I'll be fine!"

Albert managed a small smile. "Yes...of course." He put his hand over Lavitz's, and removed it from his shoulder, holding it, examining it.

"You like Dart, don't you?"

"Of course! He's a great guy. I trust him to watch my back; he's a good fighter."

Albert sighed inwardly as Lavitz missed the point. "Do you care about him? In a way that you can't fully explain?"

Lavitz paused thoughtfully, not quite sure what his King was asking. It took a moment, and then Lavitz blushed faintly.

"I'm...attracted to him...a little."

"Thought so. Well, Lavitz. Think he feels the same?"

"Not really. He's got Shana to worry about, and he feels awkward around her; not seeing each other for years and finding he still has a devoted person could be a little awkward. I don't need to make his life more complicated."

Albert smiled faintly, and let Lavtiz's hand go, standing, working out the kinks in his back.

"Well, I have a meeting to attend to soon, so go te–"

Albert found Lavitz suddenly far to close, looking at him intently.

"My King, I may be attracted to Dart, but there is only one person who holds all my devotion, body and soul."

Albert was about to say something when he found Lavitz's lips on his own, leaving a warm, lingering sensation to spread through Albert's body.

The kiss was broken when Lavitz pulled away, a little reluctantly.

"Remember that, m'Lord, and never doubt that there is only one person in my heart," Lavitz murmured, his voice husky. It took Albert a second to rebound before he smiled softly, a look that transformed his face from world-weary and responsibility-ridden to the young man that Lavitz remembered.

"I will, Lavitz. I will remember."

There was a faintly awkward pause that was broken only when the King said, "Tell your friends that they are welcome to join you in the defense at Hoax, but are not obligated to come. Explain the situation with Sandora enough that they can grasp the situation. Now, go. The world is out there, needing your saving."

Lavitz chuckled, and his hand brushed once against Albert's face before he turned and walked out of the King's room.

It was only once Lavitz was out of the room that the King breathed again. A wry smile touched his face, and he raised a hand to where Lavitz had brushed his hand.

"I love you, so I won't protect you. I'll let you go. Have fun, Lavitz. Live."

Albert turned back to his desk, sealed a final envelope, then threw on his cape-of-office and walked out of the room, locking the door behind him.

It might be harder to concentrate during the meeting, but he felt strangely at peace. Perhaps things would go better than his gut told them they would.